A Big Day for Haitian Children
January 31, 2011—Last Wednesday was a “big day” for the field office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Haiti—and an even bigger day for 700 Haitian children who now have the opportunity to continue their education.
In a ceremony widely attended by children, parents, United Nations and Haitian government officials, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Haiti, a transitional school built last year was inaugurated, and its administration passed to the Haitian Ministry of Education.
The construction of the primary school’s nine classrooms was implemented by UMCOR in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and funded by Emergency Relief Response Fund, which is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The school is located in the Corail resettlement camp, temporary home to some 10,000 Haitians who were displaced when their homes were destroyed by the January 12, 2010, earthquake.
According to UNICEF, about 5,000 schools were turned into rubble in the disaster, as was the building that housed the Ministry of Education. Since the earthquake, more than half of the 2.2 million primary-school-age children in Haiti are not in school.
UMCOR Haiti Head of Mission Juan Carlos Real and Program Officer Josny Mehu attended the inauguration. They called the handover of the school to the Ministry of Education a “victory” in the ongoing relief and recovery efforts in the Caribbean nation.
Real thanked all who had partnered with UMCOR to bring about the construction of the transitional school, particularly the parents of the school children and the participants in the UN Education Cluster, one of several clusters, or groupings, of NGOs organized around specific recovery missions.
A representative of the parents in Corail expressed her gratitude to UMCOR, underscoring that the opening of the schools “solves one of the major problems” faced by residents of the camp.
Thirteen teachers already have been contracted by the Ministry of Education to work in the school, and the ministry also has promised to provide students with book bags and uniforms.
Challenges remain, as there are many more children waiting to return to classes than the Corail school can accommodate.